Marine Corps Boot Camp: How to Make a US Marine

John P.

I joined the United States Marine Corps when I was 17 years old. More specifically, 5 days after my 17th birthday my mother had to go with me to sign the papers for my enrollment because I wasn’t legally old enough to do it myself (you have to be 18). Believe me, she didn’t want to do it, but I felt it was my duty to defend this country and she respected my decision.

Less than 8 hours after I graduated from high school I was on an airplane to Marine Corp Recruit Depot in San Diego, CA, where I was to spend the next few months of my life. Since that time people have often asked me what USMC Boot Camp was like, often comparing it to the movie Full Metal Jacket. And I tell them in most ways it was actually a lot worse than that movie.

Now there is a documentary called Ears, Open. Eyeballs, Click. which gives you a real view of what it’s like. Watching the clips that follow bring this all back as if it was yesterday – although it was 20 years ago. The thing to keep in mind when you watch these videos is that it’s like this 24 hours a day, 7 days a week for 13 weeks straight.

Before we get started, here is why you join the USMC:

Mom – the ones that come next will probably make you cry. You might not want to watch them…

From the moment you arrive at MCRD the yelling begins. These guys just arrived in San Diego at the airport and aren’t even on the bus yet:

They torture you as a group, then they torture you individually, and all that is within the first hour!

Later in the training it gets a lot worse. Here is a little three part video giving an overview of the entire process of becoming a US Marine:

  • Week 01 – Receiving: 2 a.m. new recruits arrive at Parris Island, SC.
  • Week 02 – In the Barracks: Bringing discipline into the recruits routine.
  • Week 03 – Bayonet Assault Course: Turning instruction into intensity.
  • Week 04 – Pugil Sticks: Facing opponents for the first time.
  • Week 05 – MCMAP: Learning Marine Corps Martial Arts.
  • Week 06 – Rappelling: Overcoming fear.

  • Week 07 – Grass Week: Learning weapon safety and technique.
  • Week 08 – Firing Week: Firing live rounds.
  • Week 09 – The Confidence Course: Overcoming obstacles as a team.
  • Week 10 – Day Movement: Simulating tactical scenarios.

  • Week 11 – The Crucible: 54 continuous hours of physical and mental challenges. It all comes together here. Teamwork , leadership, discipline and all of skills they have learned.
  • Week 12 – Emblem Ceremony: Receiving the Eagle, Globe and Anchor and the title “Marine”.

Semper Fi!


  1. Kaiden says

    hey im thanking about going to the marines but im only 14 is it worth the 12 weeks of boot camp and also my m.o.s would be infintry whats yours?

  2. says

    So much good gouge here. I have a blog of my own on USMC OCS.

    I was and always will be fascinated by how the Corps changes civilians into Marines. They’ve honed it down to a science after a couple of centuries of practice.

  3. says

    hey ,i just get out from army 6 months ago,,army is soo politics and stupid ass hell with all that high speed stuff,,how marines do it today or they aceppt any prior service from army,,and i get RE-1 dischrge,,somebody i need answer

  4. Zane Waddell says

    Hey, I am 14 and I’m going to finish High School in 2015 and I am thinking of joining the Marines!! I am in quiet good condition can do 20 pull ups + 110 sit ups in 2 minutes! I also have the SA Swimming Record for 50m Backstroke!! But the only problem is that I live in South Africa!! I want to know if I can join the US Marines??? Please let me know!! Thanks!!

    Zane!! :)

    • says


      To enlist, you must be a U.S. citizen or a resident alien. So if you move to the US, you can join. Otherwise, no.


      John P.

    • says

      mr john,,i was in the army active for 4 years and half i went twice deploy to afghn 12 monts deploy,,with 101 arb division 4 bct ,,fort camp bell KY,,im civilian now,,but interest to join USMC Reserve ,,i get RE-1 discharge honorable,,are they still enlisted prior service from other branch,,

    • says

      Absolutely they’ll take you if you served in any other branch and left in good standing! Just call your local recruiter and they’ll get you in. Semper Fi!

  5. says

    I joined tin 1984 went to bootcamp in july and graduated in september and it was a 24 hour 7 days a week hell week. the first day was something i had never exspeienced ever before made my dad yelling at me nothing and he was a marine also. i do agree that the physical part needs to be constant and all need to finnish giving 110 percent no quiters. and politacle and parents not allowed cadence should be whatever keeps you going so if you say pussy or pain so what. its about building marines not boyscouts. every generation says that its getting worse. i think its about time the generals start listening. semper fi he marine corps

  6. Chris Paquette says

    Devil Dog, I am 15 years old and I can’t wait until I can enlist. I agree 100% with your views. I want to become one of the best human beings on the planet when I graduate from basic. I want to be proud for the rest of my life that I did what others can’t even think about. I want to serve my country and be a part of every thing people talk about when they say “Marine”. I can only hope that they get harder on recruits by 2015. There’s a reason I want to be a marine. If I wanted to be trained then I’d join the army. I want to be a Marine.

  7. William says

    ATTENTION ON DECK MARINES: I am the son of a career Navy sailor. I did 5 stinkin’ years in the Army( medic, jump-qualified, detached to 10th Spec Forces Group Bad Tolz FRG) after high school. In college after ( Bachelors in Nursing), I was an enlisted Crewchief in the daggone Air National Guard (country club MF’ers), walked away from them when I EAOS’d…. A year later I had early mid-life crisis, and joined the USMCR ( 1 – 25 Inf) as a 0331 (machine gunner to you civilian pogues) …. in 1999, AT AGE 34, I WENT TO MCRD PARRIS ISLAND SC!!! C COMPANY PLT 1006 1ST RTB… truly, I never felt as much pride in my military accompl,ishments as I did in gradding Parris island and marching by Iron Mike. True, in 1987 us army basic they were still doing “wall to wall counselling” and by 1999 the Mothers of America had ruled that out on MCRD, it’s still plenty tough….. the Corps teaches moral integrity and honor because there is IMPLICIT trust in your seniors; without faith and trust in core values, we are nothing.I was called up in 2003 for OIF, and again in 05 for OEF (TOROS!)…. To any young wannabe Marine, THOSE lessons in moral integrity really will stand by you for a freakin’ lifetime…. ie, when u are subsequently tempted to do wrong, to steal – you will find yourself saying” my integrity’s worth more than that,…” because the Corps and its Objectives instill that in YOU. forever.truly….do yew unnerstand that,recruit? Out here, brothers….

  8. Mac McGrath says

    Hey Sgt. Pad…Went through P.I. with Platton 306 and graduated December 1966. Our Sr. D.I. was a SSGT E.C. Jones. He was bad ass, hard corps…but got relieved before Elliot’s Beach. Last I saw him was after graduation ceremonies standing in the crowd, no longer wearing is D.I. cover. I heard he got busted, sent to the Nam but, saddly, never made it back.

  9. Cheyenne Patton says

    Im 17 now and i have been wanting to be a Marine for years. I have been in the Air Force, Army, and Navy JROTC and yet i still decide to stick with the marines. I cant wait to graduate from high school and go straight in for boot camp. Who says females cant be a kick ass marine. I believe i can do it without a doubt. Its my dream!

  10. mike says

    That’s kind of shocking to read Devil Dog’s description of boot camp in 2007; I enlisted in 2000, and I didn’t see skating like that. When I went out in the fleet, some of the older guys would say “boot camp ain’t as hard as it used to be” and I believed them because the political correctness crap was in full swing then, but I still thought that boot camp “did it’s job”. Nowadays, if they keep making it softer and softer, that’s gonna cause a lot of problems which will just feed the public’s hysterical view that Marine boot camp is too barbaric, and it needs to be made easier.

  11. Marshall says

    I arrived in Parris Island in June of 1998 and graduated on September 11, 1998. Prior to joining the Corps, I had played football for ten years of my life and considered myself to be in pretty good shape. Wrong! Boot camp when I went through it was 24 hours a day, 7 days a week physical and psychological punishment. From the quarterdeck, to the pit, to coming in from p.t. and being marched through the showers with every other shower head turned from freezing cold to boiling hot. Being given thirty seconds to eat your breakfast and when you weren’t done, the d.i. picked up your tray and dumped it. Being woke up at 3am to get on line, count down while still half asleep and then to watch the d.i. dump mattresses all over the place and count backwards from twenty to remake the racks! During rifle week, when we did night fire, we got back to the barracks and the stripped us, patted us down, scanned with the metal detector and God help you if you weren’t fast enough at proving to them you hadn’t taken a live round as a “souvenier”. It got ugly at times and there were times when I and others got thrown around a bit and other time when they broke us down to nothing.

    But here’s the thing: when I joined, I had very little confidence in myself, I got pushed around a lot growing up because I was small and sheepish and wouldn’t defend myself. I was easily intimidated and believed it when someone told me how worthless or stupid I was. And believe, I was a guy that grew up with the most supportive parents in the world. Unfortunately, I let the opinions of those around me in school affect my own self worth.

    When I graduated: I was lean, I was toned, I was strong and most of all confident. I walked with my head up and my shoulders back and meaningful purpose to my step. I would’ve taken on six guys at once because even if I couldn’t take all of them, I didn’t give a shit because I certainly wasn’t scared.

    I was 18 when I went through it and I’m 31 today and the lessons and the confidence still resonates. Semper Fi.

  12. Stephen Pressley says

    Hey, I am enlisting March 1 (my 17th bday). I want to be a MOS 1812, (M1A1 Tank Crewman) but, I was wondering if I could get MSG duty of my MOS is Armor? Or would I have to go Inf. to get MSG duty? I grew up on Camp Pendleton,CA. My dad was in the Corps from 88-99. He was with 2/4 Echo, he was a Mortarman, but he has advised me to stay away from Arty and Mortars and they cause deafness fairly quickly, he is deaf in his left ear from it. But anyway I was wondering if anyone could tell me if I can still apply for MSG duty even if my MOS is 1812. Semper Fi

    • mike says

      S.P. if you’re still listening, any MOS can volunteer for MSG but you have to be eligable to get a security clearance; also they don’t just give you the exact MOS you ask for, so you may not end up a tanker.

  13. Ryan Heist says

    Hey everyone, I’ve been reading everything on this and I will just write down some random stuff that may answer some questions or comments on what others have said. I was in for 7 years and just got out 6 months ago with a BA degree in hand. I’m currently working on my Master’s and I’m a GS-12 in Homeland Security. The biggest piece of advice I would give to young men aspiring to be a Marine, it to try to go to college first. Being an officer has so many more positives than being enlisted and it’s better for your future if decide to get out or retire. If you know you don’t have the discipline to finish college right now (like me when I joined), then you should take the route I took. Being a PFC and LCpl sucks. But like some have said, it just may make you stronger and I believe my experiences in the Corps made me very strong.

    Your training will be as hard as your Drill Instructors, some are intense, some are not. We started wth 76 and graduated with 54 (and thats after 10 pick ups). So, we had about a 40 percent attrition rate. We were honor platoon and we won nearly every contest between the other platoons. We also had three suicide attempts (1 almost succeeded), 1 UA who made it all the way to Arizona (escaped from San Diego), and a few sent home because they were deemed psychologically unable to adapt. The rest of the drops were injuries or got too sick. So in my opinion, we were trained hard in 2003.

    Croatia, yes you can join. You will have to locate an overseas recruiter in Europe I believe. But do not hold me to that.

    Choosing MOS. Hey, it’s all who and what you want to be. If you are concerned about your career and monthly income after the USMC, I would advise you not to go into infantry unless you just don’t make the grade on the ASVAB. If you have a GT score of 110 or higher, you definitely need to stay away from infantry and use your intelligence for something more specialized. At the time of my entry, I had a GT of 110, BUT I had been arrested when I was a dumbass 16 yr old for drugs. That kept me from getting intelligence or other fields that required a clearance. So, I went LEGAL admin. Well, just because it says LEGAL, doesn’t mean you will be learning about the law which I found out when I got to MOS school (that was my fault for not doing research). However the Corps just had a different plan for me altogether and I ended up getting to do a lot of all the fun stuff that a Marine loves to do. Fire different types of weapons, pick up detainees, security convoy missions, humanitarian assistance missions, HMM-V courses, helo missions, train with other militaries, tech training, etc. So, in alot of ways, I got the best of both worlds because I was on a MEU. ANYWAY, think about your MOS and what your intentions are. Just because you are one MOS, doesn’t exactly mean that is what you will be doing your whole USMC career. The higher the GT score requirement and clearance, the higher the pay later on in life. Recommendations are 0511 and 0231, these have great civilian careers as well.

    Final last two pieces of advice. TRAVEL! Do not try to select a location close to home. Who joins the military only to stay close to home? Go out and explore all what the Corps has to give you to you. GO MSG!!! I got to travel to 25 plus countries and dated all kinds of women from every skin color, different languages, and customs. Enjoy and embrace the adventure, you’ll regret it when you’re older.

    USE tuition assistance and GI BILL!!!! Ask your college buddies or high school friends who didn’t join the military how they are paying for school. If it isn’t their parents, they are taking out loans that will keep them in debt for quite a while. I have no debt, all of my school is for free, and I’m getting paid an extra $2,000 A MONTH to get my MASTER’S. This is on top of my GS-12 paycheck. Who gets paid the equivalent of 40,000 a year to go get an advanced degree???? NO ONE else except military vets!! TAKE ADVANTAGE OF THE GI BILL, ITS THE BEST THING THE US MILITARY OFFERS VETS!!!

    Do not get into trouble while you’re in the The Corps, it could ruin your professional career. The Corps will be very good to you if you’re good to the Corps. Semper Fi

  14. Colonel Recon says

    I’m only 16 years old and i Graduate in 2012. Sorry to hear that the Marine Corps is getting soft, I was really hoping to go through all the works that a usual marine would go through. I ‘m not really in top physical shape but i believe i can get in good shape about time August of 2012 rolls around. I just scared as hell when ex-Marine buddies of mine told me that I was gonna have to run like five miles each day!! I knew that I wanted to be a Marine since I was 6 years old but i still don’t know what my specialty or field of expertise is going to be yet. I still need some suggestions but I might be leaning towards infantry. MARINES CORPS FOREVER!!! I FOREVER SALUTE YOU!!!

  15. Skye says

    15 but I want to join when I get out of school I want to be in the band of brothers and be always faithful to our great nation I have been working out I weigh about 110 not sure if weight matters I can run fairly well I just need work on pushups thanks for the videos and thank you all for serving Semper Fi!

  16. Sgt pad says

    I went through P I in 1963 and it was as hard as my brothers had explained to me. See I had two older brothers that went through P I in 1956. P I was not easy and I was with the 3rd Bat. Plt 358. Back then we were U S gov. Property,There was not stress zones. The only thing that we had was the black flag days. If the days temp went over 99 degrees we were not allowed to go outside the barracks,but we did everything inside. I would like to thank my DIs for the hard work that that made the whole plt become a unit. Thanks again Sgt E C Jones SDI

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